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Is it okay at Christmastime to give a gift to a boss or for kids to give gifts to teachers if they are not Jewish?

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Your question text asks about any gift. Your title mentions Christmas gifts. Which do you mean? –  msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 19:50
    
Any religion, sorry for the confusion. –  morah hochman Dec 14 '11 at 19:52
    
Sorry: I'm still confused. Your title still says "Christmas gifts". Your question still just says "gift". And now your comment says "any religion". I have no idea what you're asking about. Just gifts for Christmas? Gifts for any non-Jewish religious holiday? Gifts for any religious holiday (including Jewish ones)? Gifts for any or no occasion (e.g. birthdays)? –  msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 19:54
    
@msh210 gifts at this season. –  morah hochman Dec 14 '11 at 19:59
    
Thanks for the clarification. I've edited it into the question: tweak ad lib. In the future, you can edit your questions yourself to clarify them. –  msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 20:11
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I'm not so sure it's as straightforward as follick said. True that Christianity is avodah zarah for us Jews; true also that it is, according to some posekim, also the same for non-Jews. Nevertheless, one of the major leniencies in this regard (alluded to by Shalom in his answer to the related question) is that most non-Jews nowadays aren't אדוק באמונתם, so "frum" that, say, receiving a gift before their holiday will make them run to church to thank their deity.

There still is the issue of chukos hagoyim (imitating non-Jewish practices), though.

On a practical level: maybe indeed it's too late for this year to do anything about it, but how about if you give them an end-of-year present (or whatever you want to call it) far enough in advance - say anytime before Thanksgiving - so that it doesn't have a direct connection to Christmas, but still shows your regard for them?


I found something else that bears on this. The Rema (Yoreh De'ah 148:12), citing Terumas Hadeshen, says:

וכן אם שולח דורון לעובד כוכבים בזמן הזה ביום שיש להם סימן אם יגיע להם דורון בחג ההוא אם אפשר ישלח לו מבערב ואם לא ישלח לו בחג עצמו.

"Similarly, if one is sending a gift to a non-Jew in our times [by which, I guess, he means to distinguish them from the idol-worshippers of old], on the day on which they consider it significant to receive presents on that holiday: if possible, [the Jew] should send him the gift the evening before. If not, he may send it on the holiday itself."

(As Shach there :13 points out, delaying giving the gift until after the holiday would lead to איבה, the non-Jew resenting the Jew for having ignored the occasion. "Especially nowadays," he says, "when it is uncommon for them to go and thank [their deity, for the gift].")

However, in uncensored editions of Shulchan Aruch (such as here), the reference is explicated as being to "ביום ח' שאחר ניט"ל שקורין ני"א יאר" - "the eighth day after Christmas, which they call 'New Year.'" Which would mean that giving a non-Jew a gift on Christmas itself might still be problematic either as supporting idolatry or as chukos hagoyim, but if you give it as a New Year's gift, there'd be more room for leniency. (Why the posekim aren't as concerned about the chukos hagoyim angle regarding New Year's, I don't know.)

Though I suppose that it might be argued that conditions were different then - when the non-Jews' resentment could lead to real physical danger to the individual and to the Jewish community generally - than now.

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or maybe give it after the new year as a new year's gift? –  morah hochman Dec 14 '11 at 16:53
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@morahhochman, I guess that might work too (CYLOR, of course, about that - and, for that matter, about my first proposal). The practical problem that I see with that, though, is that by that time it might be too late to correct the mistaken impression that you don't care for or respect them (since you'll have let their holiday season pass without giving them anything). –  Alex Dec 14 '11 at 16:57
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regarding "far enough in advance"... there seems to be no such thing in America today. Christmas advertisements seemed to have started before Halloween from what I heard. :P –  avi Dec 14 '11 at 17:00
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Alex, what about the mat'nas chinam issue (especially if Christianity is avoda zara)? –  msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 19:56
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@msh: that applies only if you don't know the person (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 151:11). I guess the idea is that if you know them, it's not really chinam (maybe because you expect him to eventually reciprocate somehow). –  Alex Dec 14 '11 at 20:40
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No (Avodah Zara 2a) If Christianity is considered Avodah Zarah then it is clearly assur. I know that not everyone holds that it is but in cases of doubt about such a serious issur D'Orisah as Avodah Zarah we need to be machmir.

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@folick So please tell me what we should do, as it is the socially acceptable, and almost a necessity to give presents to teachers and bosses. (I know this is not a halachic part of the answer, but suggestions would be appreciated. –  morah hochman Dec 14 '11 at 15:05
    
@morahhochman Do you not find it somewhat below our dignity as Jews to give presents to those who have authority over us at this time? One option could be: a letter of appreciation at the end of the civil year. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Dec 14 '11 at 15:24
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@morahhochman In my 10 years of working in the united states, I never bought my boss a gift. I was forced to participate in a "secret santa" a couple times, but never to give a gift to my boss. Also, I never gave a gift to a teacher for christmas. Only on teacher appreciation day. –  avi Dec 14 '11 at 15:29
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@H'Gabriel, the precise status of Christianity is a long-standing disagreement. –  Isaac Moses Dec 14 '11 at 16:45
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@morahhochman, re "please tell me what we should do": As always, you should not trust this site for practical halacha, for which you should consult a competent rabbi. –  msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 19:52
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